Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Cedric Bryant


Concerned with creating a discourse in which to voice the space they occupy, postcolonial writers Toni Morrison and Wole Soyinka may be said to engage in the political practice of using imagination to write themselves free. Literary critic Ato Quayson delineates two aspects of this genre that act in relationship to promote a process of cultural and political affirmation: "normativity and proleptic designation" (written to the colonial center, uplifting cultural sources) and that of "interstitial or liminal" (internal political and cultural critique). Mindful of this dialectic, Morrison and Soyinka explicitly relate their creative works to issues of both political and aesthetic liberty. Because of this overt association, the reader can inspect the way in which their written works reflect, advance and achieve these aims. I assert that Soyinka and Morrison use imagination and employ "refractory realities" to further this end. That is, their narratives, which are grounded in, but significantly depart from the "realistic" world, disrupt and deconstruct their dominant culture's discursive paradigm. This literature addresses socio-cultural concerns by incorporating current social experiences, traditional elements (folklore or oral narratives) and imagination to open a figurative space – creating literature which is distanced from politics, but not apolitical (Quayson 79). These works engage multi-level "defamiliarization" which creates an alienated distance for the reader: an intentional change of perspective born of the creation of alternative realities. These authors not only dispute the dominant social formations, then, but also imaginatively create new discourses. While Soyinka and Morrison share commonalties as politically minded postcolonial authors employing writing which frees, their works, projects and conceptual methodologies have salient differences. Indeed working with an understanding of refractory realities these differences are to be expected, for such realities fuse together contemporary experiences, historical narrative structures, and imaginativeness. Thus the variance between a Nigerian Yaruba man, and an African American woman, their borrowed traditions of narrative and their individual imaginations suggests some of the distinctions which engender divergence between these two authors in significant and telling ways. The expansive conceptual space and intentional alienation that results from these subersive writings highlights the ways in which "space" can act as a focal interpretive medium for both Morrison and Soyinka. Imagery, language, characterization, metaphors, moral frameworks and theoretical concepts articulated in terms of spatiality illustrate the dialectic continuum between the oppressive realities of disempowered peoples and the liberation from these experiences. Thus by interrogating absence/presence and construction/deconstruction in conceptual and theoretical domains, slavery/emancipation and imprisonment/freedom in Morrison's Beloved and Soyinka' s The Man Died, margin/center in Morrison's Bluest Eye and Soyinka's Bacchea of Euripidies, and submergence/transcendence in Morrison's Sula and Soyinka's Death and the King's Horsemen, the reader gains a focused perspective by which to examine the two author's movements toward freedom.


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postcolonial, political, realism